Wow. That’s all I can say after this match. The Boston Uprising were doing well early in the stage… and then Dreamkazper happened. Without their offensive linchpin, plenty of people had their doubts (myself included) about the Uprising’s chances in their next game against New York. New York! How cruel! A team that looked like it could be falling apart, forced up against the most dominant force in the Overwatch League?
Things looked grim, to say the least. Turns out, we needn’t worry. Montecristo said it best- the New England Patriots’ “next man up” philosophy is alive and well in Boston, and the Uprising have proven that they have the depth to make their mark no matter who they put on stage.
The Boston Uprising end the week as the hottest team in the Overwatch league. A complete team effort gets them through one of the roughest weeks in the stage three schedule and sets them up nicely down the line. It also helps in terms of overall seeding, as the Uprising go from sixth to fourth and are close behind the Seoul Dynasty and London Spitfire.
Continually, beating two divisional opponents in a tight race is always important. The 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Fusion was an enormous win considering the Fusion just came off a successful trip to the end of the stage playoffs. On Saturday, the Uprising completely and utterly dismantled the Houston Outlaws, winning in one of the most one-sided games of the season.
Two MVP Candidates on the Uprising DPS-Line
The Uprising has a lot going for them at this moment. This team had little expectations outside of their own building at the start of the season, most saw them as a bottom-four team. With that in mind, pushing the best teams midway through stage three is an excellent sign, and even more important is the emergence of both Jonathon “DreamKazper” Sanchez and Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon at the damage positions.
Both players were known as talented players entering the Overwatch League, but to say both players would be considered MVP-candidates past the midway point is insane. But here we are, Uprising constantly upping their game and finding new ways to use their terrifying damage duo to throw off opposing teams, and after shutting down Jiri “LiNzkr” Masalin and Jacob “JAKE” Lyon, it’s safe to say both players belong in the conversation for best player.
Consider this, among all OWL players Striker currently has the best kill-death ratio of any player and is the top three in all major statistical categories. DreamKazper, on the other hand, leads most categories among the league leaders for projectile players and is the one player who is in the top five for total damage from a non-hitscan player.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the Uprising victory today and how each player was used. First, the acknowledgment of all the heroes played in today’s match were staggering. A combined six heroes between the two, and in most instances, those switches worked. Looking at Striker’s day, he played a great deal of Junkrat when he’s normally primarily stuck on Tracer. However, on maps like Temple of Anubis, a map the Uprising are 6-0 on this season, he couldn’t be touched from the high-ground. Same goes for Junkertown, and the few times Striker switched off Tracer.
On to DreamKazper, who surprisingly took on Widowmaker duels from Linkzr and came away with an overwhelming lead in head-to-head kills. Putting that in perspective, LiNzkr doesn’t lose in that department. It’s one area the Outlaws always have the advantage on, but DreamKazper made sure that wasn’t the case Saturday. In fact, DreamKazper was having so much success specifically finding LiNzkr, that it brought down the entire Outlaws gameplan. No one could get started on offense and this is the reason why.
Coach Crusty driving force behind Uprising
Coach Crusty before a match. Photo via twitter.com/BostonUprising
Here’s something that simply doesn’t get discussed enough and that’s coaching. Da-hee “Crusty” Park will never get the recognition he deserves for what he’s been able to get out of this team, but on the outside looking in, the Uprising is the best-coached team in the Overwatch League. It’s not only getting the best out of each player, it’s the traits they’ve instilled into these players. The fact that this team rarely overextends and always have Noh “Gamsu” Young-jin always in the right position to dive forward in attack or backward to defend allowing for everyone to play with a safety net.
Additionally, the compositional picks are also making it easier for the players. The Outlaws didn’t have answers for DreamKazper’s Pharah. The Outlaws don’t have a great answer for Pharah on the roster, but that’s the benefit of having DreamKazper ad the main projectile player. The versatility of the DPS-mains and their large hero pools gives Crusty plenty to work with.
It’s quite remarkable to see the growth on this Boston Uprising team. There’s no player more on highlight alert than DreamKazper, who is just unconsciously good on most days. This team’s main problem is consistency, either win-or-lose, this team goes on streaks. Right now, they’re on a winning streak, but only time will tell if this type of play keeps up. Regardless, this team is hitting on all cylinders, and improving at a faster rate than most of the other teams in contention. Good coaching, talent, and the willpower to improve will keep them to their winning ways.
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Stage 2 has not been easy for the Boston Uprising. They lost the first two matches 4-0 Which was a harsh blow to the Uprising’s confidence after a strong stage 1. Their first defeat was chalked down largely to Philadelphia Fusion playing incredibly well with their newly available player Josue “EQO” Corona, although it was clear there were still issues with the Boston side.
Boston’s next match was against a still strong Houston Outlaws team, and once again again Boston lost all four maps. Now the issues were clear. Boston thrived in the mercy meta because Kellex is very comfortable on mercy and they can’t play around mercy as much post nerf.
The next week Boston did exactly what was expected of them. They lost 4-0 to a dominant NYXL and then won 4-0 against a Florida Mayhem that was still struggling. This was the first of three matches thatYoungJin “Gamsu” Noh was to miss. The official statement was that he had to go back to Korea because of an illness. However esports insider and gaming journalist, Rod “Slasher” Bresleau claimed that the absence was due to infighting in the organisation and Boston allegedlywanted to move towards a full western roster.Adding fuel to Boston’s media fire was Support player Connor “Avast” Prince who “liked” the tweet.
Crusty/Gamsu and HuK have different visions on how the team should operate moving forward. In response, Boston has put Gamsu, Striker, and Neko up for sale/trade to other teams with a full-western lineup in mind, and the LA Gladiators declining an initial offer, a source said.
With a bad record and disappointing performances from Boston, some fans on social media got understandably heated on social media.
Quick to douse the flames of speculation was President of gaming for the Kraft group, Chris “HuK” Loranger. He dispelled all rumours via a medium.com Article stating:
“Here at Boston we generally have an open door policy as far as discussing any trades or sales, but we have never came close to selling or trading Gamsu, Striker, or Neko.”
Boston Start to put it back together
With the rumours mostly put to bed, Boston Uprising went back to what Boston did best, Winning. Gamsu returned to the starting squad, leading the team to a 4-0 victory over the Dallas Fuel. Continuing their streak of games that have gone 4-0 both wins and losses. Their streak would come to an end in the next match against the LA Valiant which ended 3-2 in favour of Boston. In the final week of Stage 2, Boston came up against the San Francisco Shock who had Jay “sinatraa” Won playing his second Overwatch League match since turning 18. Sinatraa is known for his tracer play, and is an incredibly talented DPS player. Sinatraa played well for the Shock and had a huge part in winning team fights, However Boston Uprising had Nam-Ju “Striker” Gwonon their side. On the whole striker won out the Tracer matchup in a tense and entertaining match which Boston won 3-2.
Some close matches to close out
With playoffs no longer a possibility, Boston had far less to lose than their final opponents, LA Gladiators. The Gladiators had to win 4-0 against the Uprising to make it to the stage final. All hopes of glory were dashed by Boston in the first map when Uprising won on Volskaya Industries, maintaining their 100% win record on the map. In the end Boston won 3-2 and ended up 6th in both the stage and the season tables.
Courtesy of: The Overwatch League
Overall it was a mixed stage from the Uprising and it was incredibly clear just how valuable Gamsu is seeing the team with and without him in the lineup this stage. We saw more play from mistakes and he was surprisingly good but not enough for a starting spot yet. Kellex was still playing Mercy throughout the stage but showed improvement on other heroes. And of course, Striker and Dreamkazper played incredibly throughout.
Looking Ahead to stage 3
Boston have a decent shot at placing high in the rankings in stage 3. With the next meta likely including Sombra. Uprising have an advantage as they have a dedicated Sombra player in Stanislav “Mistakes” Danilov. Mistakes has impressed on Sombra so far, although Sombra will play differently in stage 3 due to the recent buff.
Recently in Overwatch Contenders (which runs off the live patch) Tracer and Sombra have been played together to great effect. With a Tracer player like Striker, Its hard to see Boston ignoring this strategy. However they may not want to play it too often as Jonathan “DreamKazper” Sanchez is too good and too flexible to sit on the bench.
It’s hard to predict what the future holds for teams in the Overwatch League but so far with no signings or sales, Boston Uprising seem confident in their current roster and won’t have any initial teamwork issues with new players coming in.
Map pool and first matches
The map pool for stage 3 is somewhat favourable for Boston Uprising. They are undefeated on both Volskaya Industries and Temple of Anubis which are the Assault maps in the stage 3 map pool. The Hybrid maps aren’t so good for Boston. They only have a 20% win rate on Numbani and Blizzard World has not been played in the league yet. It will be interesting to see what teams come out with on the new map. The control maps look decent for Boston with an 87% win rate on Ilios and 50% on Nepal. Finally Boston Uprising have a 40% win rate on both Junkertown and Route 66. Although Route 66 is a strong Sombra map so that is likely to increase as the stage goes on.
Week 1 of Stage 3 schedule is exactly the same as Week 1 of stage 2. Boston come up against Stage 2 finalists Philadelphia Fusion and a Houston Outlaws team that is currently an unknown quantity.
Europe, as a region, has always tended towards monolithic super teams, having some of the greatest talent in the West, born and raised in their own region. During the Summer Split, Fnatic could not be considered any less than the strongest team in Europe, taking the first ever perfect split in the LCS. Right at their heels though were their younger, or older, brother in Origen, the team formed around the leaving of xPeke and Soaz that blazed from the EU CS to the Quarter Finals at Worlds. With the absolute crashing and burning that was SK Gaming’s LCS team, a new El Classico is brewing, that is, between the two European giants in Fnatic and Origen.
What’s to watch between these two teams? Well, right now, Origen looks set to take Europe by complete storm, even more so than last time, and maybe even challenge Fnatics record of a perfect season. Origen looked strong going into the Summer Split in 2015, they looked strong at Worlds where NA teams faltered around them, and they look (possibly?) even stronger with Power of Evil in the midlane (not to slight xPeke in any way.) Fnatic, on the other hand, has done a lot of rebuilding. They lost their Top, Jungler, and Support to NA, and that is a huge hit, particularly in their Support. Yellowstar can take almost full credit for rebuilding the team and leading them on the Fields of Justice to victory, a strong shotcaller and a great support player. Huni and Reignover, Top and Jungler respectively, are huge talent hits, but talent can be replaced. The wealth of experience that Yellowstar brought to the team cannot. Still, everyone casted complete doubt on the lineup that ended up going undefeated in the Summer Split, so if any EU team can almost completely rebuild a roster into a world class team it’s Fnatic. Gamsu and Spirit, Gamsu coming from a rather lackluster Dignitas squad but having his shining moments there and Spirit from Team WE and Samsung Galaxy Blue, are strong pickups to replace the Korean duo for the top half of the map. Noxiak, their Support player, has yet to really be seen, and has some of the biggest shoes to fill coming into this split. The storyline here is a question mark too: will Fnatic and Origen remain the two top dogs in an increasingly competitive league, given some of the star studded talent that’s consolidated in other teams?
The ‘Middle of the Pack’ squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.
The middle of the pack shake up
Europe’s also probably the most volatile of the regions. Upstart teams like Lemondogs, Alliance, Supa Hot Crew and others, rise and fall almost as quickly. They also lay claim to the most competitive middle of the pack teams ever. Just look to the Summer Split 2015: the four teams ranked 4-8 had 1 game difference between them. That is insanely close. So what does this mean here? Well, these teams have always struggled to really cause the two to three headed giant of the top of the league to sweat. Sure, they’ll take games off of them at times, but overall it’s hard to say that a Roccat or Elements really could take down Origen in a best of three. There’s always something that’ll slip up, maybe nerves or small mistakes, that the upper teams will take advantage of and run with it.
So what’s the story going into this split? Well, the usual talent conglomeration. The Unicorns of Love hope to rebuild themselves, having lost Power of Evil, Kikis, and Vardags, around some pretty talented players: the (in)famous Diamondprox will hold down the jungle, Fox the midlane, a shining player for SK Gaming’s turbulent Summer Split, and lastly the French talent in Steelback, whose tenure in Fnatic is resume enough. For Team Elements, having lost their star in Froggen, they have chosen to try and rebuild largely around Steve, Roccat’s old top laner, and MrRalleZ, the literal Danish ADC Giant. The rest of their roster, other than Gillius who played for Unicorns of Love and G2, are unheard of solo-queue players. Lastly, we’ll look at Roccat’s new lineup, one of the few middle of the pack teams to actually pick up some pretty experienced players in every lane. Fredy112 in the toplane, ex-SK Gaming, Airwaks in the Jungle, ex-Copenhagen Wolves, Betsy in the Midlane and Edward as Support from ex-Gambit, and lastly, the most untested of the team, Safir as ADC, taken from Renegades. Given that each of these players is at least as talented as any middle of the pack team could hope for, it’s the eternal question of whether this can translate onto the stage in any meaningful way.
So, what’s the storyline to follow? Well, the real question hanging over everyone’s head is whether these teams can make any real impact in the league. The dream of every middle of the pack team is to lose that title and make it comfortably in the top 3 or 4 of the League. But, given some of the new talent, this might be just a dream for many of these teams. It’s not impossible, of course, that one of these teams can just ‘click’ and absolutely dominant the league. This is Europe, if it’s going to happen anywhere it’s here. But I think, at least on paper, these teams are going to be a solid middle of the pack group, not able to really make a dent on the pedigree that will claim the top four.
Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.
New Kids on the Block in G2, Splyce and Vitality
In contrast to NA, Europe was relatively quiet when it came to purchases for LCS spots. Sure, Splyce made headlines with their million(!!) dollar acquisition of Dignitas.EU, the first fully national Danish team to make it into the league in a while (since Copenhagen Wolves did many moons ago with Bjergsen.) Vitality, too, bought into the league, picking up Gambit’s old spot and built arguably one of the scariest rosters for these new comers. Lastly, G2 did it the old fashioned way, constructing a good roster, attempting to get into the LCS, failing, rebuilding, and then managing to get in through the Promotion tournament.
As any team entering the LCS has over their head, the big question mark over all these teams is just how well will they do now that they’re at the big kids table of the LCS? Splyce did amazing during the CS, being probably the most dominant force there and making it in through the automatic promotion that Riot introduced (where the 10th place LCS team is automatically relegated, while the top CS series team is automatically promoted to the LCS.) But how will they fare against this new competitive EU LCS? It’s hard to say. They’re actually quite lucky in one regard over the other newcomers, in that they’ve largely all played together for quite some time. They know each other, and that’ll go a long way to (hopefully) having clear communications and good synergy. Talent-wise, the only notable players are Trashy in the Jungle, who was Jungler for now relegated Enemy eSports, and Nisbeth, the support player for also now relegated Meet Your Makers, which isn’t really telling of any greatness. What about G2 eSports, the eSports ‘club’ built by ex-SK Gaming Ocelote? Well, largely they became a farm team for many other organizations. They’ve had many players come and go, but their current roster, revolves around the hope of Emperor, their ADC from Korea and North America’s Team DragonKnights, and Kikis, their Top laner who played Jungler for Unicorns of Love, being able to make an impact. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does for communication, given the diverse languages within the team. But G2 has a steep uphill battle before them, and it’s questionable as to whether they’ll really leave a mark in the EU LCS.
Last, but certainly not least, is Team Vitality, who get their own paragraph because I think they are the newcomer team to look out for. While Roccat were able to snag notable players for each of their positions, Vitality were able to do so and then some. They grabbed Cabochard for their top lane, a consistent threat on the old Gambit lineup. Next is Shook, the very storied Dutchman whose bounced between Copenhagen Wolves, Alliance-Elements, then Copenhagen Wolves, and now Vitality, making great impacts on each team (as much as can be said for some of them.) Nukeduck holds down the mid lane, who’s also been a European standard and has been slated as the potential-ridden midlane, always expected to do big but never quite making it there. Lastly, and I think this is really the strongest point, is the duo lane taken directly from H2K gaming, in Hjarnan and Kasing. H2K was Europe’s third seed going into Worlds, and while they didn’t overly impress many, that’s still something. It’s all going to come down to how this team actually performs though. Talent is one thing, but League is a team oriented game still, and communication and synergy are not just buzzwords. While on paper they look like the strongest ‘new’ team, this has to translate onto the stage.
FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.
H2K: Can they keep their top three status?
H2K was another example of Europe’s upstart nature, coming out of CS and into quite a strong position within the LCS and eventually making it to Worlds. They were strong before, but I can’t help but feel they’re both in a better and worse position this split. The good? They got FORG1VEN. Anyone who followed SK Gaming in the Spring Split last year knows this is BY FAR the biggest pickup in the offseason for Europe. He is good, really good, and if he can learn to cooperate with his teammates in H2K they can easily retain their third spot position (dropping maybe to fourth at times.) The bad? Well, Europe’s gotten a lot more competitive too, even with the loss of some major talent, and as good as FORG1VEN is he is also… a difficult player to have on a team. FORG1VEN is a definite improvement on pretty much any ADC in Europe, but he is also just as difficult to have on a team as it is to not have him on your team. The storyline of H2K is really going to revolve around their botlane, and whether the veteran in VandeR can keep him both satisfied as a Support and reign him in when needed. The dynamic of H2K will either make or break them as a top team in EU LCS, and the Spring Split is going to be when all eyes are watching them on which it’s going to be.
ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com
European Talent Exodus
European exports to NA aren’t much of news, it’s happened before and made huge impacts, like the move for Bjergsen, and also made very small difference, think Evil Geniuses. This time, however, it’s been quite an exodus. Europe lost Huni and Reignover to newly minted Team Immortals in NA. As if that wasn’t hard enough for EU fans, they lost Yellowstar, the jewel of Europe, to TSM and Svenskeren also to TSM. Surely things couldn’t be worse? Well, then they lost Froggen to Echo Fox a new start up team, and then SmittyJ (arguably less of a hit, but one nonetheless,) to Dignitas. It’s all a bitter pill to swallow, having also seen Alex Ich leave to help form Renegades in NA, alongside Jensen, ex-INCARNATI0N, who joined the then struggling Cloud 9 team.
This storyline is kind of twofold to follow. First, the question most pertinent here is whether Europe can recover. Those who caught the EU LCS trailer know that this is going to be a big storyline there. Europe’s been here before, goes the trailer, they’ve been doubted before, but they’ve always come out of it stronger than before. One of EU’s greatest hopes, in Origen, is still fully intact from this exodus. Fnatic’s rebuilt itself before with less. Heck, EU can even claim to have fully imported something from NA in Safir for G2. But the question could also be rephrased less harshly: not whether Europe will ‘recover,’ but how Europe will show it is still one of the most dominant regions in the world. The second side of this coin? Well, it’s whether these Europe imports will affect NA’s LCS. Bjergsen’s rightfully so considered to have kept TSM afloat and relevant since he joined. He’s the strongest mid laner in the region, at least for now. But then Dexter, CLG’s old Jungler, didn’t seem to have such a lasting legacy for CLG. Then there’s also the story of Evil Geniuses, failed import and eventual dissolution. Jensen ultimately was good for Cloud 9, but when he joined many doubted him a worthy heir to Hai’s throne. TSM’s also known no end of ‘failed’ European junglers too. So the question for NA fans is this: will these injected Europeans make an impact to a region that showed such promise going into Worlds but ultimately fell flat on their faces? As with all our storylines here, only time will tell.